When graphic photos of American soldiers abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to light in 2004, they sparked international outrage. The reaction by the world to the horrifying abuses sent shivers down the spine of senior CIA officials too.
But not because they were appalled. They were scared that their own, worse, torture tapes might surface and that public reaction would be to abolish the CIA.
The CIA had hundreds of hours of videotaped “enhanced interrogations” of two Al Qaeda suspects in CIA custody. These interrogations included waterboarding and other techniques classified as torture.
But, according to reports from PBS, those tapes would never see the light of day. Their destruction was ordered by the CIA’s top operations officer, Jose Rodriguez.
“I was told, if those videotapes had ever been seen, the reaction around the world would not have been survivable,” Jane Mayer of The New Yorker told the PBS show FRONTLINE.
Reports from the The New York Times about the tape's destruction enraged the Senate Intelligence Committee, and triggered an independent investigation of the CIA’s covert interrogation program. It also led to rumors of infighting between the now-more-powerful NSA and the less-powerful CIA.
Rodriguez, like James Clapper and Keith Alexander, was never prosecuted. In the case of Rodriguez, President George W. Bush signed legislation granting immunity to him and anyone at the CIA who had participated in the program.
The revelations show a pattern wanton disregard for oversight and the rule of law. They show the people inside these programs will do anything to preserve their power and will fight to the death should anyone attempt to oversee or question their activities.
In short, they expose a deeply undemocratic underbelly of our country that is rotten from the core out.